No. 14 ASU wrestling continues to dominate, UFC star Cain Velasquez recognized

Eight wrestlers came out victorious as ASU beat the Tar Heels for the first time in Tempe

After a prosperous showing at the Virginia Duals this past weekend, No.14 ASU showed no signs of slowing down and came out with a 31-9 victory over North Carolina. 

“I think it just comes down to mental toughness and who wants it more,” head coach Zeke Jones said.

The Sun Devils (7-2) got off to a quick 6-0 start, winning via pin-fall thanks to an outstanding performance by junior Jacen Petersen (184).

The heavyweight bout of the night proved to be nothing short of exciting as ASU’s No. 5 sophomore Tanner Hall exceeded UNC’s No. 30 Cory Daniel by a major decision of 5-1, which extended ASU’s lead 9-4.

After consecutive wins put ASU up 15-4, UNC’s redshirt senior No. 3 Joey Ward proved too much for sophomore Nikko Villarreal, winning decisively by technical fall in their 141 square-off and trimming ASU’s lead to 15-9.

Another match that had Wells Fargo Arena full of hysteria was the 157-pound match between ASU’s redshirt freshman No. 9 Joshua Shields and UNC’s redshirt senior No. 25 Joey Moon. Shields started strong and was able to hold off a furious comeback by Moon, eventually winning 7-5 and giving ASU a 22-9 lead over UNC.

Two top-10 wrestlers faced-off in a compelling main event between ASU’s undefeated redshirt freshman No. 1 Zahid Valencia and UNC’s redshirt junior No. 6 Ethan Ramos at 174. 

After two periods of wrestling, Valencia found himself down 1-0, but began period three with an escape that tied it at 1-all. Valencia eventually pulled off the 2-1 win over Ramos and secured ASU's 31-9 win.

The Sun Devils look to keep the momentum going when they travel to California to face No. 21 Stanford in a conference battle Sunday at 3:00 p.m. MST.

ASU alumni Cain Velasquez is recognized by ASU prior to match

ASU unveiled a wall-length mural of UFC star and ASU alumni Cain Velasquez at the Sun Devil Sports Performance Center. Velasquez was acknowledged for his accomplishments throughout his career at ASU and his continued professional success.

Velasquez mentioned how honored he was to be recognized and how he drew inspiration from wrestling athletes that came before him.

“If you have a goal as an athlete or in life, work hard at it because with hard work you can achieve anything,” Velasquez said.

Velasquez established himself as a perennial heavyweight during his time as a Sun Devil, with record of 86-17. He also earned All-American honors, a Pac-10 championship and a pair of top-5 national finishes.

Former ASU head coach Tommy Ortiz praised his former player's ability to remain humble.

“That’s the biggest thing about him, he doesn’t fight for the glamour or for the lights, he fights because he loves it,” Ortiz said.

Takedown of the Week: Valencia bros. receive Pac-12 Player of the Week Honors

Zahid and Anthony Valencia became the first brothers to win Pac-12 player of the week honors in back-to-back weeks in the last decade at ASU. Anthony Valencia was named player of the week on Jan. 11 and Zahid Valencia was named on Jan. 18.

Assistant coach Chris Pendleton endorsed Zahid’s continuous improvement this season, but understands he has raw talent and must be attentive to the little things in his game.

“I know everybody kind of sees the flash, but we (coaching staff) try to see flashes of what he is going to be and what he is turning into,” Pendleton said.

Zahid ranks first in the 174-pound division, while Anthony checks in at No. 8 in the 165-pound division. They are the only members of the Pac-12 to be ranked in the top-10 of their weight class.

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